08/01/2013 2:07PM

Del Mar: Include Me Out poised for repeat in Hirsch


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DEL MAR, Calif. – Include Me Out had her best season in 2012, winning three stakes and finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Santa in November. She could be on her way to equaling those accomplishments in 2013.

One of her stakes wins was the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar, a race in which she will be favored to win for the second consecutive year on Saturday. Include Me Out won the 2012 Hirsch by a neck over Star Billing.

Trainer Ron Ellis expects an even better performance this weekend.

“She acts like she’s five lengths better than last year,” he said on Thursday. “It’s the style in which she is doing her workouts.”

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While Ellis is not predicting a five-length win, he has been delighted in Include Me Out’s condition. She worked a half-mile in 46.80 seconds at Del Mar on July 29, a quick workout for an Ellis-trained runner.

Owned by Samantha Siegel, Include Me Out, 5, is part of a strong field of nine fillies and mares in the $300,000 Hirsch Stakes, which is run over 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack synthetic surface. The race is part of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program, offering a fees-paid berth to the BC Ladies’ Classic at Santa Anita in November.

Aside from Include Me Out, the top contenders are Byrama, who won the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park in June, and More Chocolate, the winner of the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita in January and the runner-up in the Vanity.

Include Me Out began her 2013 campaign at Hollywood Park with an impressive win in the $77,070 Desert Stormer Handicap over six furlongs on June 16. She rallied wide to win under a hand ride from jockey Joe Talamo, who has the mount on Saturday.

Include Me Out has won 7 of 14 starts and $956,030, the most wins and highest earnings of the Hirsch entrants. As confident as Ellis is with Include Me Out’s training, he was less enthused by her outside post in the field of nine for her first start around two turns since losing the BC Ladies’ Classic by 2 3/4 lengths to Royal Delta.

“We didn’t get a good post,” Ellis said. “We’re asking a lot of her in the second race off a layoff. She hasn’t been two turns in a long time.”

Include Me Out races as a stalker, and should have ample pace to follow from the stakes winners Great Hot, who won the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita in February, and Sister Kate, who won the Santa Lucia Stakes at Santa Anita in April and the California Governor’s Cup Handicap at the California State Fair in Sacramento on July 13.

Byrama is likely to race near Include Me Out. Trained by Simon Callaghan, Byrama followed her win in the Vanity with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on July 13.

Sister Kate is one of three fillies and mares in the field trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who also starts Lady of Fifty and Via Villaggio. Lady of Fifty, who starts from the rail, was the third as the 8-5 favorite in the Vanity, a loss that Hollendorfer said left him “a little disappointed.”

Via Villaggio, third in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga last August, was second to Sister Kate in the California Governor’s Cup Handicap in her second start of 2013.

“We feel like she can do something here,” Hollendorfer said of Via Villaggio.

More Chocolate is likely to race just behind the leaders. After the La Canada, she was second to Joyful Victory in the Santa Margarita Stakes over 1 1/8 miles. In the Vanity, she was beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Byrama.

Since then, trainer John Sadler says that More Chocolate has thrived on Del Mar’s synthetic surface.

“She’s trained better here than all year,” he said. “She’s woken up working on this track. If training means anything, she should have a big race in her. She needs to step up a notch to win a Grade 1.”